Monday, 3 February 2014

The Things They Don't Tell You About Fire

This story is about that time that me and Ericka and Jonathan were trapped in a burning building and nearly died. It starts with true things and ends with things I made up. As Amy Hempel says, “I exaggerated even before I began to exaggerate, because it's true — nothing is ever quite as bad as it could be.”

The light at the bottom of the swimming pool is not like the light anywhere else in the world. I could fly to Easter Island and commune with terrapins, I could leap out of an airplane in the spun New Zealand sky, and still I don’t think it could come close to this blue. This is an astringent blue, cleaner than a dozen bottles of bleach tipped into toilets. It’s unnatural. And there is nothing, nothing, I would rather feel on my skin.
    The first thing they don’t tell you about fire is that there is no paranoia sufficient in the world to avoid it. You can turn off the gas every time you are done cooking and you can snuff candles when you leave the room to pee and you can conduct regular technical checks on all of your white goods, but that will never, ever, be enough. One day, on a day like any other, you might accept an invite from a friend you’ve hardly seen all summer, a friend who lives with her husband on the fourth floor on a street that always seems to have broken fridges on the sidewalk. You will not know, until it is too late, that a woman who cannot remember to let her child back inside after playing lives downstairs, and that her kettle has a broken socket, and that if anything ever sparked and sizzled like potassium dropped in water, she would walk out without ever pressing all the buzzers, without ever yelling run, run, run.

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